Another Level

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

At set break last night, I had multiple conversations lamenting the relatively jam-less phenomenon Phish had become. The band’s musical re-evolution from the first to the second leg of summer had unexpectedly come to a screeching halt when the band stepped indoors. Fall had not progressed as imagined; the band simply wasn’t talking risks anymore. A tour that started with lofty expectations of improvisational escapades and musical growth had turned somewhat formulaic – a series of songs in the first and a couple ten-to-twelve minute jams sprinkled throughout the second. Hmm. Just what had our cosmic adventurers become? Where had their spirit of exploration gone? We heard glimpses of it at Red Rocks and The Gorge, and logically thought Fall would be the next step. With enhanced onstage comfort and a few tours under their belt, Phish was ready to take over the world again – or were they?

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

11.20.09 (M.Stein)

Through the first half of tour, no new musical direction had emerged. If the band decided to jam, they pulled out “Disease,” “Rock and Roll,” or “Drowned,” and launched into a high speed rock jaunt that inevitably broke down into percussive grooves before morphing into ambience and drifting off into the next song. Some outings were better than others, but the formula began to grow tedious. This wasn’t the Phish I toured with in during the mid to late ‘90s, and this wasn’t the Phish I toured with in ’03 and ‘04 – 2009 represented a new take on their music, and to say it wasn’t a bit watered down would be generous. Was it the lack of drugs? Was it a lack of intrinsic motivation? Nobody knew, but a consensus was beginning to form amongst kids who have seen the band for years on end that something needed to happen; and it needed to happen now; Phish had to start jamming again. The last thing I said before the lights came down was “This better be huge.” Darkness.

Somehow, someway, the band must have eavesdropped on our conversations in the 200 level, because when they emerged for their fourth and final set at The Knick something had changed. I don’t know what conversation the band had at setbreak, or how they plotted their plan of attack, but when they stepped onto stage, they let their any inhibitions fall away and went for the jugular. Fifty minutes of pure exploratory improvisation later, I gazed at the stage, drenched, refreshed, and so blissed out, words cannot begin to explain.

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

11.21.09 (W.Rogell)

“Seven Below > Ghost” defines why we see Phish; why we spend thousands of our dollars, weeks of our life, time away from our families, and all our vacation days chasing the sacred rite; searching for those moments – ever fleeting but ultimately inspiring- when the universe comes together in a vibrant confluence of ecstatic music, unconscious rhythm and soulful reverie. Fifty minutes of IT, guided by a spirit unseen in 2009, absolutely floored the entire Knick, leading to a deafening ovation in reverence of the magical mystery tour.

Organically building through multiple melodic themes with improvisation so fluid it made any other jam from the year seem contrived, Phish seemed to be playing to our greatest fears, showing us they most definitely still have what it takes to blow our minds apart. Cohesively connecting two 25-minute epics, Phish crafted far and away their most stunning music of the year. Nothing else even comes close. For whatever reason, everything truly came together for the first time in 2009 last night, and Phish presented us with a psychedelic excursion that stands up to their prestigious history.

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

11.18.09 (M.Stein)

Songs turned into mere vehicles as Phish allowed their instincts take over their consciousness in earnest, resulting in an epic voyage for the ages and hopefully a sign of things to come. But the question begging to be asked is, “Why now?” What were the precipitating causes of such a monumental – and obvious – shift in musical intent? Something of such magnitude doesn’t just happen out of the blue; the band clearly decided that last night would be different.  And boy was it ever. Completely redefining possibilities for the final week of tour, last night’s show at The Knick represented a massive step forwards to the hopeful return of the Phish of our dreams.

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

11.20.09 (W.Rogell)

Rest of Set II Notes: Everything that happened after “Seven Below > Ghost” was simply frosting on the cake. If the PA had broken at that point, everyone would have picked up their belongings and headed for the exits with an ear-to-ear smile. But the did, in fact, continue with the quick bust-out of Velvet Underground’s “Cool It Down”- a song that seemed wholly appropriate following the initial segment of the other-worldly playing. Segueing into a celebratory groove session of “Jibboo” the band then took a breath with “Let Me Lie” before showering the audience with the liquid funk of “Wolfman’s Brother.” A full-on “Julius” wrapped up the set before the band came out and gave their own nod of recognition to the special evening their signature piece, “You Enjoy Myself.”

Set I Notes: The first half started with a bang with “Party Time” and “Stealing Time,” while also featured a solid “Foam,” and a botched “Split” that paled in comparison to Cincy’s version, as well as several others from this year. Notable bust-outs included “Sanity,” “Walk Away,” and the first 3.0 incarnations of “Uncle Pen,” and “Vultures.”

I: Party Time, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Uncle Pen, Sanity, Foam, Walk Away, NICU, Alaska, Split Open and Melt, Joy, Vultures, Backwards Down the Number Line

II: Seven Below > Ghost, Cool It Down > Gotta Jibboo, Let Me Lie, Wolfman’s Brother, Julius

E: You Enjoy Myself

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933 Responses to “Another Level”

  1. Mitch Says:

    923 comments!! what the hell went on today? is that a new record on a regular day? no show or fest? or is this yesterdays post? my days are running together.

  2. Mitch Says:

    i thought about taking mine to a tshirt shop and having them do that. great minds.

  3. widow Says:

    seriously miner.. i am not completely shocked but i am.. the seven below>ghost jibboo was awesome.. but there have been much better jibboo’s namely red rocks and cinci.. i don'[t understand why your sooo in Love with these 2 songs.. I am a DIE HARD PHISH PHAN!! I understand how one version can mean the world to one and ehh to another but when it comes down to it we always pick 1-3 versions of a song as being the best.. like the 10-31-95 yem.. and so on.. but i just can’t see why your panties are all wet over this. I think we all LOVE the spacy jams but we all LOVE it more for the most when they are tight and trey is picking notes with clarity and ephasis on passion.. he has that special gift.. to make something from nothing.. hit jam, rock the funk and take it to an emotional peak beyond bliss.. such as in the cinci jibboo or the red rocks drowned>crosseyed jam.. if anything i wish they would focus on a crazy yem.. a one for the ages which hopefully msg or new years will provide. I appreciate your writing a ton miner.. i just don’t fully understand why this was “IT” for you. oh and everyone i talked to (and yes i went) says the detroit show was KILLER.. everyone even a girl i know who was knocking them before hand was smiling with a euphoric high during and after that show.. everyone LOVED it. the disease was sick.. same witht he bowie and the tight foam. the cobo sucked but the sound was ok and the music was killer.

  4. tba Says:


    It was it cause it was it. Trey was on top of it, a true master controlling everything. The pre Ghost jam, or whatever you want to call it, had more teases than a fifties era high school girl school uniform. OK bad joke, but the point is trey managed to make it sound good while he touched on every style of music, every note, many songs. From Ghost to 2001 thme teases to Talking heads teases to Forbins or Gamhenge “Phrasings”. Every great guitarist is recognizable after listening to 30 seconds of a solo jam, and any Phish fan would be able to say that’s trey after 5 seconds of that. The improv was soooo good. Now that is a good jam, or a good improv. Frankly, I don’t like the jam just to jam as that has characterized Volt whatever or the horrible band Trey formed after the trio. Thank God he went back to Russ and tony.

    Anyway that 7 below Ghost jam had improv, but there was purpose, and no other band on the planet could touch what Phish did set 2 Albany second night. FRankly I thought both shows rocked, and a sober trey is telling the rock community, OK I am one of the best ever and i am going to prove it. Saturday night he did without a doubt. I have never seen a Phish moment that rivaled that moment. It may not be my favorite show ever, but it was easily the best playing I have ever seen for that 40 or so minutes.

    Trey has grown up, and so has Phish. Don’t like it, Uncle Mcpores or whatever that band is called needs fans….

    And as for panties wet comment, kid save it. Miner correctly identified a pivotal moment. Not his fault you can’t see “it”.

    So many good MSG seats available. Can’t believe I can’t go. That is going to be so good, but how they could top Albany??? Tough.

    UVM 90′

  5. DLA Says:

    Youre right, there’s a pretty cool theme that develops in the 12-25 minute mark. To the guy who heard Real Me teases, I can hear it that, but to me it almost sounds more CSNYish i think mainly bc of Page’s keys there. The stuff they were doing at 13:00-14:00 also rem inded me of that WSP song “Diner”, particularly on that Light Fuse Get Away album. Also check out 15:30ish mark where Mike lays down an identical base line to the “Twist” jam from 4-2-98, which I think was ironically played in the same building (i may be wrong).

    I too am having a hard time seeing why some people here were so moved by this jam, or better put, were so much MORE moved by this piece of music than so many other segments Phish has come up with, even from this past summer tour. I do think it’s great though and will continue to listen. The 18:00 mark is really cool too.

  6. Robbie Price Says:

    Sorry if this is a repeat comment, but did anyone else catch the SICK Page “Burlap Sack and Pumps” quote in YEM when Trey/Mike jumped on the tramps? The YEM jam had a definite BS&P theme to it too.

  7. sandstone Says:

    I was there and this was indeed IT for 2009 so far. After the safe first set, these 50-odd minutes were simply a bliss-filled reminder of what Phish can do when they’re on.

    Oddly enough, check out how Fishman himself started controlling the jam, pushing the beat without being seduced into falling into a gentle ride.

  8. tba Says:

    Diner Rocks ;<)

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